We will be gradually updating our website with reports and research related to gun violence both within the U.S. and across the world. This is our first entry of this sort in which we’ve summarized a UN report on murders across the world.

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski.

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski.

You can download the pdf here of the global study on homicide, commissioned by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2011. This study seeks to provide a global overview of homicides by using a comprehensive collection of cross-national and time series homicide statistics. The statistical evidence and analyses in the study are meant to increase our understanding of the trends and patterns of homicide. The goal is to use the data to help develop effective policies that would curb lethal violence and its side effects.

Two conclusions the authors determined regarding firearms based on the data:

  • A significant body of research indicates that firearm availability predominantly represents a risk factor rather than a protective factor for homicide.
  • Countries in the Americas show a strong correlation between homicide rates and the percentage of homicides by firearms.

Things to note before reading study

  • For the purposes of the study the term “homicide” refers to “intentional homicides” in which the perpetrator intended for their actions to cause death or serious injury. This EXCLUDES: deaths related to crimes of passion, deaths related to negligence or recklessness by the perpetrator as well as deaths that were considered justifiable such a self defense.
  • The term “The Americas” refers to a region of multiple countries in both North America and South America. The data from the United States is included in the data for this region. When referring to Northern America, they mean Bermuda, Canada and the United States.

What the study revealed:

  • There is a clear link between violent crime and development.
  • Different factors drive violent crime. Some regions experience violent crime because of organized crime, drug trafficking and the violent culture of youth gangs. Other regions experience violent crime because of domestic violence.
  • Guns do play a role in violent crimes.
  • 42% of global homicides are committed using guns.
  • Homicides in the Americas are more than 3 ½ times as likely to be committed with a gun, than in Europe (74% vs. 21%)
  • In the Americas, more than 25% of all homicides are related to organized crime.
  • In countries with high homicide rates, the share of gun-related homicides is also greater and is often linked to organized crime and drug trafficking.
  • 69% of homicide cases in the United States were a man killing another man. Less than 3% of cases were a woman killing another woman.
  • Many countries that have high robbery rates also tend to have high homicide rates.

Patterns & causes of violent crime

  • Young males are the population of people most affected by violent crimes in all regions
  • Women of all ages are most likely to fall victim to domestic violence.

Annual Homicide Rates

Total Global Homicides: 468,000

  • Africa: 170,000 homicides (36%)

–       17.4 per 100,000 people which is the highest of all regions

  • Americas: 144,000 homicides (31%)

–       15.6 per 100,000 people which are more than double the world average.

–       The United States crime rates have been declining since 1990 but still has a high homicide rate compared to other countries with a similar socio-economic level.

  • Asia: 128,000 homicides (27%)

–       Falls below the global average between 2.4 and 4.3 per 100,000 people

  • Europe: 25,000 homicides (5%)

–       Both Europe AND Oceania fall below the global average at 3.5 per 100,000 people

  • Oceania: 1,200 homicides (>1%)


Global Average: 6.9 per 100,000 people

  • Africa: 15% of global population/ 36% global homicides
  • Americas: 14% of global population/ 31% global homicides

–       Compared to other countries, the Americas have on average, high homicide rates associated with high levels of development. This suggests that there are other factors than development that play a role in driving homicide rates such as organized crime.

  • Asia: 60% of global population/ 27% global homicides
  • Europe: 11% of global population/ 5% of global homicides
  • Oceania: 0.5% of global population/ 0.3% of global homicides

Regarding the rule of law

  • The study reveals that nearly all countries in which the rule of law has been strengthened, homicide rates decline.
  • Almost all countries that have an increase in homicide rates also experienced a weakening in the rule of law.
  • Most countries with increasing homicide rates are associated with weak rules of law.
  • Countries with strong rules of law have not generally had increasing homicide rates.

Regarding Guns

There are two hypotheses regarding guns. They are facilitation and deterrence.

1)    Facilitation: having access to guns can empower criminals who, without a gun, would not commit a crime. Accessibility to a gun can also turn a simple dispute into a tragedy. Crime level increases as well as the likelihood that the outcome of the crime would result in violence. It also makes it easier to assault multiple victims.

2)    Deterrence: suggests that gun availability can disrupt or deter criminal aggression and prevent the completion of a crime by shifting the balance of power in favor of the victim. Gun availability isn’t a driving force for criminals. They are already determined to commit a crime and they get a hold of guns through well established and well hidden channels to achieve their goal.

A significant body of research indicates that firearm availability predominantly represents a risk factor rather than a protective factor for homicide.

Countries in the Americas show a strong correlation between homicide rates and the percentage of homicides by firearms.


1 Comment

  1. I can’t see one use for a firearm that isn’t totally selfish.